A new film which documents the crazy hours junior doctors have to work in South Africa gives the public a glimpse into the gruelling pressures more than 5,000 junior South African doctors have to face every day.
South African-born Francois Wahl, a chartered accountant with a passion for filmmaking, directed and produced the much anticipated film, Doc-U-Mentally – last doctors standing, which he believes is an apt title since, “junior doctors must be insane to work under the conditions they do,” he says.
Set mainly at Ngwelezane Hospital in Empangeni (KwaZulu-Natal), the movie is not for the faint-hearted and shows real-life scenes of stab-wounds, gashes that must be sown up, near-drownings, and everything in between that junior doctors need to deal with during a regular shift.
It features Dr Saishrien Rasen in the surgery unit, Dr Yenziwe Ngema in orthopaedics, Dr Wanele Ganya in paediatrics, Dr Amy Salvesen in emergency medicines and Dr Lourens Wahl in casualty.
“I was inspired to tell the story after experiencing almost first-hand what these young doctors go through. My father, wife, brother and many of my friends are in the healthcare profession and let me tell you, the effects of sleep deprivation and the hostile environment they have to work in have damaging repercussions – and it’s this that I wanted to bring home to the viewer,” says Wahl.
“The film shows five different doctors from vastly diverse backgrounds, during five different calls, with very little director’s influence from my side as I wanted to produce an unadulterated film, showing things the way they truly are. The main focus was to show the race against time for these doctors and how working 30 hour shifts impacts their mood, performance, stress and anxiety levels and personal safety,” he adds.
Their participation in the film was motivated by both a professional and personal responsibility in order to lead the change in especially working hours, but to also shed light on the psychology behind the plight of junior doctors, and to bring to the fore other issues that too need to be addressed, such as the shortage of medical personnel and the HIV dangers they face.
The documentary also drew the interest of Pharma Dynamics, one of SA’s leading generic pharmaceutical firms, who along with the support from the SA Medical Association (SAMA), KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission and funds raised by fellow doctors via a crowdfunding campaign, made the documentary a reality.
The 82-minute film has also been entered into several international film festivals, including the Public Health Film Festival in the UK and the Denver Film Festival in the USA.
For a sneak preview, go to https://vimeo.com/180480648 to watch the trailer.